As the Director of Engineering at Talabat, one of the leading food ordering companies in the Middle East and North Africa, I face the unique challenges of overseeing a diverse and dynamic tribe of 80 employees. Our team, which consists of developers, designers, data scientists, product managers, and engineering managers, is responsible for managing a multi-million euro segment of the business. Effective time management and collaboration are crucial to our success in this high-stakes environment.
In the past decade, my career has seen rapid growth, and with it has come the need to meet with various stakeholders regularly. Balancing meetings, tasks, and personal responsibilities while ensuring the smooth operation of our team requires a well-organized and efficient approach to time management. In this article, I will share my experience crafting a schedule that accommodates the diverse needs of my role, as well as the tools and techniques that have helped me maintain control over my ever-evolving calendar.
From managing one-on-one meetings with direct reports to collaborating with other departments, steering committees, and even mentoring team members outside of my tribe, the demands on my time are vast and varied. Read on to learn how I've leveraged tools such as Google Calendar, Google Tasks, and Reclaim.ai to create a streamlined and effective time management system that keeps me focused, productive, and prepared to tackle the challenges of leading a high-performing engineering team in a fast-paced, competitive industry.
My career has seen rapid growth in the past ten years. With that has come to the need to meet with many people regularly. Here are some of the people I have to talk to range from:
My direct reports
As I write this article, I have nine engineering managers that report to me, five in Dubai in the same office as me, three in Cairo, and one in Turkiye. Here is how I have scheduled our "formal" interactions:
- Thirty minutes weekly 1-on-1 (5 hours per week): to discuss immediate challenges and blockers.
- One-hour monthly connects (10 hours per month): to track the progress of the goals they committed to. These goals range from people growth, tech excellence, delivery and product OKR goals, and team health.
- One-hour quarterly connects (10 hours per quarter): to discuss career goals and adjust our actions to ensure they are growing in the right direction.
- One-hour to one hour-and-a-half weekly domain catch-up (4 to 6 hours per week): for all my direct reports in the same domain and their product managers so that we can align on the progress of business and tech projects, tech quality, incidents, etc.
Skip reports (2 hours a month)
I don't have 1-on-1 with all my skip reports (I can't fit 50+ people in my calendar), but I meet some skip-reports monthly when I am following up on a problem, they are working on a unique project, or I am doing routine check "at the source."
Close collaborators (average 3 hours a week)
These are typically the co-lead of my tribe (director of product, director of data). We have formal interaction one to five hours per week, plus countless informal "corridor" chats, and I sit next to my director of product, so we typically talk all the time. This proximity does wonders for our ability to stay super-aligned.
Steering Committee and others (avg. 7 hours a month)
I attend multiple "SteerCo" where directors from various functions and some members of the C-level align on the progress of some strategic projects, and executive decisions are made to drive projects in the right decision. They usually last one hour each, and I have at least one per week and sometimes three.
I also have other meetings like:
- Monthly catch-up with all the tribe leads(2 hours a month)
- The CTO's staff meetings and other Tech leadership meetings. (average 6 hours per month)
- Ad-hoc mentoring sessions with people outside my tribe. (average two hours a month)
- Two weekly hiring progress reviews as I work with two different internal recruiter teams. (2 hours a week)
- Weekly meetings with all the engineers of my tribe to analyze the operational state of our services and a tech-wide incident review meeting. (2 hours a week)
- And other random meetings that pop up over time.
Managing such a calendar has become very overwhelming.
I like to say that I am one more responsibility away from needing to hire a personal assistant to manage my calendar.